Uncle Moishy and the Blowtorch

My rabbi taught that there is a time for everything in the Jewish lifecycle and calendar.  Tu B’Shevat is for breaking out your green thumb, Sukkot is for the handymen among us, Hanukkah is for the pyromaniacs, and Pesach (Passover) is for the obsessive-compulsives.

In addition to being clean of chametz, leaven, ovens and utensils used for cooking need to be made Kosher for Passover.  If they are used during the year, they need to be kashered to bring them to a different chamtez-free level for Passover.  One of the ways to do this is hagalah, boiling at a high temperature, or libbun, heating the metal.  In the United States, pretty much everyone just buys a whole new set of kitchenware (well, two, one for meat and one for  dairy), but here it’s pretty easy to kasher your utensils.

There is a pan and a pot I own that I had a bit of doubt were actually kosher, so I figured now was the perfect time for kashering. So, I went to the mikve (ritual bath) about a 10 minute walk away from my house, and there were two guys who set up a station to kasher things for Pesach.  Dunking the dishes in rainwater is another weird mitzvah. I’ll leave the explanation for another time.

Getting oven racks and my pan ready for Passover. (I was offered a photo with the blowtorch.)

You can really go to town with the cleaning — removing any last remnant of chametz, leaven, dirt that may attract microscopic cookie pieces, and then, once it’s all spotlessly clean, cover it over with wrapping paper or aluminum foil so that your kitchen looks like a really large gift, or a spaceship.

To add to all the madness, Ashkenazim, Jews of Eastern European origin, don’t eat rice or kitniyot, which has come to mean a broad range of bean and corn products – you wouldn’t believe the incredible amount of products made today with corn syrup, and that is why in the United States right now the cola tastes a little different – Coke switches to sugar this time of year for this reason only, and why they bother for so few people still mystifies me (in Israel it’s sugar year round).  It all comes down to basically a fear stemming from times when bean flour was used as a wheat substitute, and bulk grains could also get confused.

Today, in Israel, you can buy products that are marked Kosher for Passover for people who eat bean products, which is the majority of people in Israel who keep Kosher for Passover.  It’s really frustrating that I can’t eat these products that very observant Sephardi Jews will eat, because there is no doubt that there is any chametz in them.  They’re Kosher for Passover, even if at one time the marketplace was vastly different than it is today.  Nevertheless, I don’t eat much in the ways of cookies and chips anyways, so it’s not that big of a deal – just the principle of the matter.

I’m not alone.  Many Ashkenazi Jews who made aliyah have taken on minhag Eretz Yisrael, or following the custom of the locals, which is to eat kitniyot. ‘Til then, I find myself doing a lot of things that make no sense, because I’m told Gd likes it, and tradition is a powerful thing.


1 Response to “Uncle Moishy and the Blowtorch”

  1. 1 Do the Dishes Dunk « Aliyah L'Torah Trackback on April 18, 2011 at 8:52 am

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Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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